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Adrian Dominican Sisters Share Stories of Experience in Resilient Communities

August 28, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Neighbors in an abandoned area of Detroit, people evicted from their ancestral lands and living in a “squatters’ community” in a desert area of the Dominican Republic, and the homeless population in the State of Washington. People in these situations were able to overcome their desperate circumstances, form community, and improve their lives with the help of individual Adrian Dominican Sisters. 

| VIEW A VIDEO RECORDING OF THE PRESENTATION AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE |

Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, lights the Christ Fire at the beginning of Resiliency in our Midst.

The Sisters who ministered with the people to form these communities shared what they learned during an educational forum that was designed to help others in the Congregation to help create resiliency in their own communities. One of four Enactments of General Chapter 2016 commits the Congregation to “facilitate and participate in creating resilient communities with people who are relegated to the margins, valuing their faith, wisdom, and integrity.” 

Although resilient communities can be defined in a number of ways, the Adrian Dominican Sisters have adopted this working definition: “one that has a long-range sustainable vision that emerges from the community through an inclusive, collaborative process that engages diverse grassroots leaders and persons who have traditionally been marginalized; creates partnerships built on trust; seeks equity and justice; draws on spiritual wisdom and is healing; and reflects a concern for future generations, living within Earth’s regenerative capacity (i.e., ‘one-planet thinking’). These elements combine to promote the well-being and vitality of the community and its ability to address ongoing stressors from crises or disasters and sustain itself into the future.”

The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Leadership Council designated 2018 as a year of study about resilient communities. Resiliency in our Midst, held on August 22 at Weber Retreat & Conference Center, brought forward the personal experiences of Sisters Janet Stankowski, OP; Maurine Barzantni, OP; and Judy Byron, OP. 

While the ministries they spoke of differ, the three Sisters also spoke of ways that they specifically fit the Congregation’s working definition of resilient communities. Many of these communities fit a number of aspects of the definition, but below are highlights. 

“… engages diverse grassroots leaders and persons who have traditionally been marginalized.”

Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP

In their ministry, Sisters Maurine Barzantni, OP, and Renee Richie, OP, waked with and fostered the leadership abilities of the local women living with their families in a cluster of houses – essentially a “squatter’s community” at the crossroads of Cruce de Arroyo Honda in the Dominican Republic. “We told them we couldn’t lead the meetings because our Spanish wasn’t good,” Sister Maurine said. They role-played with the women so that they could manage an upcoming meeting – and helped them to build up their confidence. “About a dozen women emerged as leaders.” 

Once the women came to understand that God did not want them to be poor, they worked together to meet the community needs that they themselves identified. Working as committees, they brought to their community prefabricated latrines; medical services, such as weekly consultations by two doctors, a pharmacy, and a medical lab; and Fe y Alegria Espiritu Santo, a school that began with 127 first-grade students ages 6 to 16. Because of earlier lack of educational opportunities, many of the students began first grade at an older age. The school now boasts a K-12 program with 1,500 students and professional teachers who graduated from their school. 

“Draws on spiritual wisdom and is healing …” 

Sister Janet Stankowski, OP

Sister Janet Stankowski, OP, and Associate Patricia Gillis founded Voices for Earth Justice as an interfaith community “praying, learning, and taking action together for Earth justice.” The community was developed to address the environmental injustice plaguing the people of Detroit. In 2011, they purchased five lots with two buildings in the Brightmoor area of Detroit and built Hope House as a “gathering place and resource for neighbors and visitors,” especially around the area of environmental justice. 

Voices for Earth Justice offers a number of workshops and retreats and leads the community in actions such as climate marches and lobbying with legislators, but remains focused on spirituality. “Prayer was and is our focus – to bring people together to pray for peace for all creation,” Sister Janet said. “We believe a spiritual transformation was needed to make the pollution and destruction stop.”

“Creates partnerships built on trust …” 

Sister Judy Byron, OP

Sister Judy Byron, OP, serves on the Board of Directors of Mercy Housing Northwest, an organization founded in 1992 through a collaboration of five communities of women religious in the Seattle area – including the Edmonds Dominican Sisters, now merged with the Adrian Dominican Sisters – and Mercy Housing, Inc. The goal was to create stable, permanent, affordable housing for groups that could otherwise be homeless, including low-income families, seniors, and immigrants and refugees. 

Today, Mercy Housing Northwest manages about 54 properties, residential complexes in the State of Washington that offer services such wellness and after-school programs. Many of those complexes were developed through partnerships. For example, Emerald City Commons – a 60-unit complex in Seattle – was developed through collaboration with an evangelical church, which had owned the property and wanted to build housing on it. Mercy Housing Northwest partnered with them to develop the complex, Sister Judy said. She explained that Mercy Housing Northwest also collaborates with government organizations, foundations, and other social service and non-profit agencies to develop housing for people in need. 

The models described by Sisters Janet, Maurine, and Judy can serve as inspiration for the various Resilient Communities Committees in the Congregation’s Mission Chapters explore areas in their geographic region where they can work with local residents to create resilient communities.

Feature photo (top): Sister Christa Marsik, OP, poses a question to one of the three panelists speaking during the Resiliency in our Midst educational forum.


From left, Sisters Janet Stankowski, OP, and Judy Byron, OP, listen to Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP, during a panel presentation. Associate Dee Joyner, Director of Resilient Communities, listens from the podium. 






Adrian Dominican Associates Gather for Partners VI

August 16, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – About 50 Adrian Dominican Associates, along with some Sisters, gathered in Adrian August 10-12, 2018, to study and discuss the Congregation’s General Chapter Enactment on Resilient Communities, reflect on Dominican spirituality, deepen relationships with one another, and to welcome three new Associates. 

The gathering, Partners VI, is an annual event that signifies the partnership in Mission between the Associates and the Sisters.

Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor and liaison to Associate Life, welcomed the group, which included Associates from Michigan, the Dominican Republic, Florida, and California. She reflected on the meaning of St. Dominic’s dying wish to be buried at the feet of his Dominican brothers. “His request expresses the reality of his brothers’ fraternity as a place of holiness,” she said. “There’s the sense of that holiness among us tonight. It is the holy preaching that you’ll hear about tonight, all day tomorrow, and Sunday.”

Associate Trudy McSorley prepared the group for the work of the next day: study and discussion on the Congregation’s General Chapter Enactment on Resilient Communities. The Enactment calls on the Sisters and Associates to pledge their “lives, money and other resources to facilitate and participate in creating resilient communities with people who are relegated to the margins, valuing their faith, wisdom, and integrity.”

Trudy noted that the Adrian Dominican leadership had designated 2018 as a year of study to learn more about resilient communities. As preparation for the work of the next day, Trudy showed a video with excerpts from a Resilient Communities Symposium, hosted by the Adrian Dominican Sisters and featuring a panel of thought leaders on five aspects of resilient communities: vision, economic empowerment, racial equity, environmental justice, and collaboration.

Associates Fabiola Reys de Veras, left, and Carol Johnson read a passage from Scripture during the opening prayer August 11.

On the morning of August 11, Associate Dee Joyner, Director of the Congregation’s Office of Resilient Communities, led participants in further exploration of resilient communities and of the people who are relegated to the margins in local areas. 

“People are very confused about what is a resilient community,” Dee said. “If you Google it online, you’ll find many references. Each group has a different take on what that means to them.” She invited participants to spend time as a group “unpacking” the meaning of the Congregation’s working definition of a resilient community: “one that has a long-range sustainable vision that emerges from the community through an inclusive, collaborative process that engages diverse grassroots leaders and person who have traditionally been marginalized; creates partnerships built on trust; seeks equity and justice; draws on spiritual wisdom and is healing; and reflects a concern for future generations, living within Earth’s regenerative capacity (i.e., ‘one-planet thinking’). These elements combine to promote the well-being and vitality of the community and its ability to address ongoing stressors from crises or disasters and sustain itself into the future.

Each local Mission Chapter of the Adrian Dominican Sisters has been asked to set up a Resilient Communities committee, co-chaired by a Sister and an Associate, to ascertain geographical areas of need and to work with the people in that area to address the needs that the people themselves experience, Dee explained. Participants were also asked to discuss the ways in which they as individuals envisioned themselves becoming involved in local resilient communities. 

Partners VI participants at prayer.

Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP, Co-director of Vocations, began the afternoon session August 11 by suggesting ways that Associates can help Catholic young adults in their discernment for vocations to the priesthood or religious life. She suggested that the Associates invite other adults in their neighborhoods or parishes to a dessert gathering to raise their awareness of young adults that they know who might have a vocation – who might be active in their parish or in community service. “Young adults want their lives to make a difference,” she said. “They need to be accompanied and they need to be invited.”

Sister Patricia gave a presentation on Dominican spirituality. “Our spirituality is not about special ways of praying but finding a good attitude in the midst of all that is and all that happens,” she explained. “We rely on grace. There’s no other way we can sometimes get through life.”  

She drew on Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic Constitution of the Catholic Church issued at the time of Vatican II, to explain the Dominican charism. A charism is a gift of the Holy Spirit, given to a religious congregation for the benefit of the Church, she said. The Dominican charism is to preach the Word of God. “Our mission is to live the charism – a common gift, one that belongs to us as Sisters and Associates. It’s dynamic and unfolding and constantly being rediscovered.”

The evening included the Rite of Acceptance of three new Associates: Gladys Cruz, of Isleton, California; Judi Engel, of Columbus, Ohio; and Eileen Negus, of Adrian. Read more in the accompanying article. The Associates wrapped up Partners VI on Sunday morning before celebrating the Sunday Liturgy at St. Catherine Chapel.

Associates are women and men – married or single – at least 18 years of age and committed to sharing the Mission and Vision of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. While maintaining their independent lifestyles, Associates share in the Sisters’ mission and vision and participate in Congregational, spiritual, and social events with the Sisters.

For more information on becoming an Adrian Dominican Associate, contact Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, at 517-266-3531 or mlach@adriandominicans.org. If you are a single Catholic woman interested in discerning vowed religious life with the Adrian Dominican Sisters, contact Vocation Co-Directors Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP, at 517-266-3532, tdeyonker@adriandominicans.org or Sister Mariane Fahlman, OP, at 517-266-3537, mfahlman@adriandominicans.org.

Feature photo (top): Stones brought in by Partners VI participants help create the environment for the opening prayer on August 11.

 

   
From left: Associate Jacci Brown shares the meaning of her symbol of Associate Life. Associate Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, leads the Dominican Blessing over Associate Dee Joyner, Director of Resilient Communities, who was the morning presenter.
 

 


 

 

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